President Obama issued the following statement last week on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade:
as we reflect on the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in
Roe v. Wade, we recommit ourselves to the decision’s guiding principle:
that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body
and her health. We reaffirm our steadfast commitment to protecting a
woman’s access to safe, affordable health care and her constitutional
right to privacy, including the right to reproductive freedom. And we
resolve to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, support maternal
and child health, and continue to build safe and healthy communities
for all our children. Because this is a country where everyone deserves
the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.
statement illustrates well the fallacies in the way the left generally
approaches the abortion issue. It's clear the statement was meant to
assert support for Roe v Wade and to provide, or to appear to provide,
some reason for that support. But instead the statement avoids even
mentioning what is controversial about Roeabortionand "reaffirms"
support for things no one really opposes. Further, it implies that to
oppose abortionthe killing of unborn human beingsis the same as to
oppose women’s autonomy and health, and even the health of children.
These are perfect examples of the logical fallacies called argumentum ad populum (appealing
to emotions as a substitute for argument) and the straw man fallacy
(attributing to one's opponent's a position he or she does not hold).
first sentence asserts that every woman should be able to make her own
choices about her body and her health.” But no one denies that! The
problem is that abortion involves a choice not only about a woman’s body
and her health. It involves also another body, another human being, who
is living and growing in the womb. The choice of abortion is a choice
to kill or discard this developing human being.
The statement also
affirms a commitment to a woman's "constitutional right to privacy" and
"reproductive freedom." But all depends on how one interprets "privacy"
and "reproductive freedom." Opponents of abortion support a right to
privacy if that is reasonably interpreted, that is, if it does not
include the alleged right to kill, or have killed, other human beings.
Moreover, pro-lifers are in favor of the right to choose whether to
reproduce or notbut not the right to kill a human being after
reproduction has already occurred. The statement then refers to
“maternal and child health,” and “healthy communities for all our
children.” This is Orwellian doublespeak, for abortion does not help but
gravely harms both women and children.
The last sentence reads:
“Because this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and
opportunities to fulfill their dreams.” Here an argument is hinted at
that is often advanced by the left these days. It was spelled out more
in President Obama’s statement on Roe v Wade’s anniversary last year. He
then said: “We need to continue our efforts to ensure that our
daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons
to fulfill their dreams.” In other words, access to abortion (the
argument goes) is needed for women’s equalitywithout access to abortion
women will be impeded from “fulfilling their dreams”.
behind this argument? It begins with the tacit recognition of some
important facts: men and women are significantly different with respect
to pregnancy. Women carry and give birth to children; men do not. For
that reason, men are physically more able to walk away from a pregnancy
than women are. But from these facts the argument concludes that these
differences between men and women are injustices or handicaps, and that
access to abortion is needed to remove them. Abortion is needed, so the
argument goes, to level the playing field for men and womenso that
everyone will have, in the president’s words, “the same freedom and
opportunities to fulfill their dreams.”
However, this argument is
profoundly mistaken on many levels. First, even if the fundamental
differences between men and women were an injustice or handicap, it is
no solution to this situation to encourage women to kill, or have
killed, their unborn children. Killing one group of persons to alleviate
the difficulties experienced by another is not a just solution.
men have just as much moral responsibility for children they help
procreate as do women. Because of the differences between men and women,
men’s responsibilities will have a somewhat different shape than
women’s. But the presence of different types of responsibilities by
different groups is not itself an injustice, nor a reason for enlisting
the government to eradicate those differences. Various groups acquire
different responsibilities: justice is not served by attempting to
remove the fundamental differences between those groups in order to
remove any differences in responsibilities.
Some young men become
fathers and thereby acquire moral responsibilities different from those
of others. They may need to find a full-time job, or work many over-time
hours, in order to help support their children. It would be nonsense to
say that young men who are fathers are suffering an injustice that
should at all costs be corrected so that they can have as much “freedom
to follow their dreams” as their male friends who are not fathers.
Likewise, it makes no sense to encourage our daughters to kill their
children so they can just as easily flee their responsibilities as our
Further, the argument treats a woman’s capacity to conceive
and gestate children as a disability that must be rectified to make
women more equal to menin effect, to make them more like men, or
rather, more like irresponsible men. But in fact the woman’s capacity to
conceive within her body and nurture a child during gestation is an
awe-inspiring ability that should be treasured; it is not fundamentally
an obstacle to “real” fulfillment or accomplishment. Women in difficult
or crisis pregnancies deserve our support and assistance, but this
should not involve devaluing their unique capacity to transmit and
nurture new human life. What is distinctive of women is not solely
located in this capacity, but it is one important, wonderful, and unique trait. To disvalue this ability is to disvalue women rather than defend their equality.
fact is that both men and women have moral responsibilities to the
children they help procreate, and fulfilling those responsibilities, by
either men or women, does not detract from their fulfillment. On the
contrary, the fulfillment of one’s responsibilities is one of the chief
ways in which a person realizes his own true worth. The equalization
argument for abortion is no tribute to the dignity of women. Just the
opposite: it is an insult to their personal dignity.
statement defends, though without so much as using any word directly to
refer to it, is abortion. And without question abortion is the killing
of a small human being, not different in kind from you or me. Women are
not be helped by being lured into having their babies killed, but by
real assistance and appreciation.